SELECTING ORANGES IN LUE GIM GONG'S GROVE
—from a photograph, 1894
It’s plain you were meant to see
the Chinese man—he alone
sits on a cart packed high with crates,
the mule’s reins loose in his palms.
gray-flecked—hides young skin.
His white shirt contrasts
with the mule’s dark hide
and with the line of orange trees
stretched clear back
to a stand of lacy pines.
The others are here
because of him: the old woman
in checked apron and black bonnet,
the men in vests and derby hats,
the boys on the ladder,
even the black man and woman,
both of them pushed
to either side of the photo’s edge.
They are still as held breath,
waiting to be told what to do.
Imagine the careful arrangement:
the photographer filling empty hands
with baskets of oranges, a pocketknife.
He tells the boys to climb higher,
so high they can peer above the trees.
He does not notice
how the ladder leads you
out of the frame,
the twig-thin poles
breaking into clean white sky.
Carrie Green's poems have appeared in Gulf Stream, Kestrel,
ABZ, Georgetown Review, and Saw Palm. She received a 2005-2006 Artist Fellowship from the Louisiana Division
of the Arts and has received professional development funding through the
Kentucky Arts Council.